Welcome to ‘People centred leadership: A different perspective’. In this series of articles, Kathryn Heslop reflects on the topic of leadership, drawing on her background in social work and counselling and her role as Executive Assistant to the National Leader of the Baptist Churches of New Zealand, where she is surrounded by incredible leaders every day.

Popoia te kākano, kia pūawai ai—nurture the seed and it will blossom (Māori proverb).  

As a person thinks in their heart, so are they[1] (Biblical proverb). 

Have you ever noticed that if you focus on your insecurity, you become more insecure? If you nurture positivity in your life, you begin to feel more positive? Or if you choose to step into confidence, you become more confident? 

There once was a person who went to the car yard to purchase a car. One model caught their attention that they had never noticed in the past. Suddenly they started seeing this model of car on the roads all around them—something they had never seen before.

There is a term in psychology called ‘selective perception’. This is based on the premise that we sort and filter our experience of the world through our unique paradigm of beliefs. We selectively see, hear, and pay attention to certain things over others[2].

These same principles apply to leadership. We must actively pay attention to what people are doing well, where they are excelling, and what they are achieving. If we look for good, we find good—the same applies to bad. In short, we find what we are looking for. So look for the good!

And once you have noticed this, show appreciation. William James, famous philosopher from the mid 1800’s wrote, "the deepest principle of human nature is the craving to be appreciated."[3]

I am profoundly aware of the fact that the personal words of appreciation I have received in my workplace over the years have gradually and consistently moulded and nurtured an inner sense of self-worth, self-belief, and self-confidence in my work and more broadly, in my life. I would not be who am I today without those affirming words spoken over me. 

It is important when appreciating others that your actions and words are authentic, sincere, and specific[4]. Be real with others, praising them when you have genuinely noticed something good. Describe with detail what it is that you have noticed. 

And if you can, demonstrate your appreciation publicly. When we publicly praise, appreciate and recognise others, not only do we add value to the life of the person we appreciate, but we also add value to those observing[5].

Every year at the annual hui of the Baptist Churches of New Zealand, we have a time of celebration where we publicly acknowledge others. During this time, we show appreciation to those who have faithfully served God for 30 and 50 years. I will never forget the moment when a couple who had dedicated their lives to serving God were publicly honoured. We took the time to hear a little of their story, we presented them with a precious taonga, we offered them a deeply moving haka, and we gave them a standing ovation. The emotion that I recall etched on their faces in this moment of appreciation is one that I will never forget. 

Be attentive to the good in the lives of those around you and show appreciation for it. For there is perhaps no greater motivator than this.

How attentive are you to the people you lead?

Other articles in this series:

People centred leadership: Introduction

People centred leadership: Attuned

People centred leadership: Responsive

People centred leadership: Inclusive

In these short articles, Kathryn reflects on six characteristics she believes are crucial for leaders today: Attuned, Responsive, Inclusive, Attentive, Honouring, and Partnering.  

Her thoughts challenge some of the more traditional views on leadership. Her ideas are grounded in practical experience and a passion for serving God and others. She hopes these musings will bring you a fresh and valuable perspective on what makes an effective leader today - a leader who must, at their core, be centred on people.

Kathryn Heslop (BSocWk (hons), PGDipEd (Counselling and Guidance)

Endnotes:

[1] Proverbs 23:7 

[2] Hunter, J. C. (1998). The Servant: A Simple Story About the True Essence of Leadership. Currency

[3] Cherry, K. (2023, February 10). Psychologist William James Quotes. History and Biographies. https://www.verywellmind.com/william-james-quotes-2795535

[4] Hunter, J. C. (1998). The Servant: A Simple Story About the True Essence of Leadership. Currency

[5] Hunter, J. C. (1998). The Servant: A Simple Story About the True Essence of Leadership. Currency

Photo: From National Baptist Hui 2022, by Charl Louw

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